Monique Jenkinson, the alter ego of Fauxnique, is an artist, performer, and choreographer whose solo performance works have toured nationally and internationally in such diverse places as nightclubs, theaters, and museums: with her work she examines the performance of femininity as a powerful, vulnerable, and subversive act. She may now add memoirist to her curricula vitae. Faux Queen: A Life in Drag chronicles her life as a drag artist, beginning with her first attempt in the summer of 1998 (dressed as a Mormon missionary lip-syncing “Wouldn’t It Be Nice” by the Beach Boys) to her triumphant win as Miss Trannyshack 2003 (the first cis-woman ever to win a major drag queen pageant). And just to be clear: Fauxnique is not a drag king, nor is she a woman pretending to be a man pretending to be a woman (à la Victor/Victoria), but a cis-woman performing drag as a woman.
Of course, Fauxnique’s journey into the drag world began long before she ever walked onto the eight-by-ten stage of the Trannyshack, first with her Halloween costumes as a small child, through the brutal world of ballet, her discovery of the gender-bending and -blurring artists of 80s music, until her status of outsider was cemented when her parents moved from California to small-town Colorado. Each of these influences would come into play when, as an adult, she would enter the world of drag. And like all good memoirs, her story freely drops names (okay, Peaches Christ may not be quite the household name that RuPaul is, but Fauxnique does include appearances by a lot of San Francisco drag royalty).
In addition to all the dishy details, Fauxnique exposes one central truth, something that every woman, and every drag performer (regardless of persuasion) knows: Gender is performance. (This tenet is just as true for Monique, a cis-woman, acting as a woman, as it is for any male drag queen, or female drag, or non-binary drag monarch.) Moreover, as a corollary, she demonstrates another truth that should be just as self-evident: Drag is a lot of work. In other words, You have to work at it to werq it. A great deal of thought occurs before a performance, as Fauxnique explains at great length: she includes several examples of her drag numbers, providing comprehensive descriptions of costume, make-up, music, props, as well as all the preparation and rehearsal that happens beforehand. Drag is definitely in the details.
In addition to being a fun read about an interesting life, Fauxnique manages to be both educating and thought-provoking: she certainly taught this cis-male reviewer hitherto unknown aspects of drag, both back- and front-stage. Never condescending of her drag sisters, Fauxnique knows full well that she is a cis-woman in a world that traditionally only included cis-men. She shows how something as illusory as drag can reveal deeper truths, and thereby elevates Drag to the status of Art. Her unique position also give her valuable insights into gender and feminism, which she communicates in an accessible way. A recent season of RuPaul’s Drag Race included two trans people and a straight cis-man as contestants; when the latter entry was criticized, a Drag Race star retorted, “Drag is for everyone.” Fauxnique would agree.
Reviewed by Keith John Glaeske